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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Revisiting an Old Project: Mjolnir MkVI Armor from HALO 3

 A while back I was asked by a local HALO fan named Bill if I could still make another suit of the HALO 3 armor that my crew and I made way back in the day.  You can read about that project here: LINK.

I was a bit leery about saying yes.  Some of those molds were over ten years old and they'd been buried in storage for so long I hadn't laid eyes on most of them in probably five years.  But I decided to give it a go anyway.  First, I'd have to dig them out of storage:

Storage container nightmare

My storage bin is a fascinating and terrifying place.  It's a 20-foot shipping container where I put things I'll get back to, knowing they may well never be seen again.  When I've wrapped a big project, the molds get placed there until I have need of them again.  When I run out of space, I spelunk my way into the deepest, darkest corner, farthest from the entrance, and get rid of the older molds that I haven't seen or needed in the most years.  Then I re-Tetris the stack to hopefully shoehorn a few more pieces into the container before I force the doors closed.  I'm way overdue for another such container, but that's a problem for a different day.

Getting out the HALO armor molds meant digging through sedimentary layers of past projects like a propmaking archaeologist.  Years of accumulation made pulling out the full set of molds into most of a days work for me and my assistant Rachel.  Still, we got them.

A quick survey of resulting pile made it clear that I'd at least be able to get one good pull from most of the old molds.  Since this was basically my first project on this scale, the molds showed a clear progression in quality as my skill level developed.  Most of them had been made using plurple AM128 silicone, the likes of which I haven't used in at least eight years. 
Old Mold

The lighter blue and yellowish areas show where the mold has aged and dried out over the years.

A few that had fallen apart in use were replaced years ago using pink Mold Max 30, my current go-to.  Even fewer were made with blue silicone from TAP plastics which I haven't bought since seemingly forever.  Missing from the stack was the mold for the lower leg.  I'm pretty sure I've long since thrown it away for fear that I might be tempted to coax another casting out of the clearly useless mold and buy myself days worth of prep and cleanup work.  Better to just make a new mold.

To make a new lower leg mold, I pulled out my old blue suit (Private Leonard Church from the popular web series, Red vs. Blue).  Having not come out of the box in years, it was also in pretty rough shape.  I'll have to get back to rebuilding it later when I have some luxury time.  Still, I pulled out both of the lower leg parts.  Since they're interchangeable, I picked the nicer one of the pair, and set it up for remolding.

The first order of business was to grind off any flaws and sand through the old, funky paint job:Shin Remake Begins

Then there was a bit of filler work to straighten out a couple of areas:
Lower Leg Armor Redux

After a bit of sanding and a couple of coats of primer, it was given a coat of glossy pink paint and one of the Rachels mounted it for molding:
Mounting Shin for Molding

Since we've been on a roll with matrix molding lately, we decided to use the same method to mold this piece.  Here's the clay bulk built up before the registration keys were added:

And the final matrix once the keys were built up and the parting wall was in place:
Halo Shin Matrix Complete

I've been writing up the matrix molding process a lot, so I won't bore you with the details here, but the fiberglass mothermold layup was so clean and professional, I couldn't resist the urge to share this pic: Halo Shin Mothermold Complete

In any case, in no time at all, we'd poured the silicone, demolded and trashed the master, and started rotocasting shins in time with all of the other parts.  Here's the first pair out of the mold:
Raw Cast shin pulls

After a bit of trimming and sanding, they were ready for primer and paint:
Shins Ready to Prime

Given the huge nightmare of digging out all of the molds, I figured I might as well make two sets of parts instead of just one. It seems like every time I get excited about a project like this, I fall into the same trap.  I tell myself that once the molds are made, making two is only slightly more work than making one.  It's not quite true, but I have yet to really learn my lesson.  This is why I have boxes and boxes of unfinished sets of armor laying around.

I also decided to make the larger parts out of fiberglass this time around instead of rotocasting them in urethane like we did with the original suits all those years ago.  The result is lighter, stronger, and all-around better.  Normally I run into problems trying to lay up fiberglass parts in tin cure silicone molds.  It turns out that tin cure silicone can inhibit the cure of polyester resins.  It also turns out that older molds are less likely to have this issue as the oils dry out of them.  Given how old most of these molds were, I figured it was worth a shot.  In pretty short order, parts started stacking up:

Parts in Progress

Untrimmed White Fiberglass Armor

In fact, I may have gotten a bit carried away.  At some point I realized I wasn't keeping track and ended up pulling a third set of fiberglass thigh armor out of the molds:

I also made a couple of extra helmets:Rough Trimmed MkVI Helmets

I did most of the rough trimming of the edges myself in the CNC room (where most of the noisy/dusty work is supposed to be done) but had to share some of the fine tuning and smooth sanding with my workshop assistants.  Here's another one of the Rachels with a huge pile of itchy and scratchy laid out on a bench:
Armor Pile in Progress

The back piece was molded with the shoulder sections separate, so assembling it into one solid piece required a bit more fiberglass work.  I started by taping all of the pieces together in proper alignment with the chest in order to be sure everything would fit together properly later:
Rough Trimmed Black Fiberglass Armor

With everything taped and clamped in place, the seams between the shoulder blocks and the backplate were layered over with more fiberglass to make them one solid piece:
MkVI Chest Assemblies|
After that, it was just a matter of smoothing out the surface flaws:


Once all of the parts were smoothed out, we moved on to primer and paint.  The base color initially started out as Rustoleum Sail Blue:Shins Awaiting Re-Trimming

After a bit more consideration, we decided instead on the slightly darker, greayer Rustoleum Royal Blue.  After a couple of coats of glossy blue paint, it was time to mess them up.  First all of the parts were given a healthy dose of silver drybrushing to make the edges look scratched and worn.  Then the black details were picked out in flat black to make them look like some kind of plastic composite before everything was given a healthy blackwash.

Here's a shot of the drybrushed shin (left) next to the blackwashed shin (right):Lower Legs before and after weathering

Here's both lower legs all scuffed and dirtied up:
Lower Legs Weathered

And the front of the iron space diaper:
Codpiece Weathered

In no time at all, the loose pile of parts was starting to look like a thing:
Parts Nearly Complete

Since I was already taking forever to get the suit built, I decided I might as well put in the extra time to add all of the marker lights all over the suit.  The wiring was simple enough, just an LED (or four in the case of the knee lights) soldered to a 2-cell battery holder sized for CR2032 button cell batteries:

Simple LED assembly

If you're looking to replicate this assembly, you can get the batter holders here: LINK, the LEDs here: LINK, and the batteries here: LINK.

The LEDs were then glued in place inside the armor, angled to optimize the light cast through the light holes, then bedded in clear resin to diffuse the visible light on the outside.  The final effect was just about right:

Marker Light Install

We also wired up cooling fans to help prevent the visor from fogging up and LED headlights in the helmet:

Since I never seem to be able to pour the clear resin into the light holes without getting at least a tiny bit onto the paint, Rachel had to go back and touch up the paint around the edges of most of the lights.

Then the whole thing got a healthy coat of "Dead Flat" clear coat, also from Rustoleum.
Clear matte coat

Clear matte coat

Once the clear had dried, I was ready to strap everything together and call it finished.  Here's Bill, aka "William-043" all suited up in the shop for the first time:Finished Blue Spartan

At 6'4" barefoot, the lifts built into the boots and the padding in the top of the helmet combine to make him look absolutely gigantic in the armor:
Finished Blue Spartan

It helps that I'm a little short for a stormtrooper.

In the end, he's as happy with the finished armor as I am:
Finished Blue Spartan

In fact, he has been taking it out regularly for photoshoots at various locations all over Northern California:
William-043 at Ease

William-043 and Cortana Closeup

William-043 dual wield magnums

William-043 riverbed



Now that I've made a dozen or twenty of these suits, I can say without reservation that his is the best-looking kit I've made from these molds.  It makes me really want to go back through my own suits (I still have Washington, Tex, and Church tucked away in storage) and tune them up again.

Then again, I still have another set of parts tucked away for a whole new build:
Agent Maine Begins...  Again.

Stay tuned while I fail to talk myself out of building just one more character from Red vs. Blue...


  1. Nice work, mate and thank you for sharing. I'm intrigued as to where you get all your Rachels from. It's something to do with your TARDIS-like storage container, right?! Keep up the good work and stay safe.